FanPost

An Unforgiving Metaphor: Timberwolves Final Report Card 2011-2012

a.k,a: "The Rise and Fall" or "The Cautionary Tale of Marko Jaric"

So, it's finally over. It feels like years since I gleefully wrote about what an exceptionally entertaining group of players had come together to form this year's Minnesota Timberwolves at the all-star break. Since then it's been pretty much an unbroken parade of heartbreak and failure, in a stark and unforgiving metaphor for the brutality and unfairness of human life. But, you know, if you'd offered me this season against squeezing into the seeds as a boring yet adequate team like, say, Indiana, I know I'd still take the amazing excitement of the first half in a heartbeat. It feels like a long time ago, yes, but I have never had more fun watching sport - hell, watching any entertainment media - than I did following these Wolves come back in game after game after game and look fun and flashy while doing it.

Kevin Love kicked all kinds of ass, Ricky Rubio came to the team like an emissary of the basketball gods, Nikola Pekovic emerged as one of NBA's top post scorers, Luke Ridnour put every thing he had into the shooting guard spot, there were a ton of fun personalities (if not necessarily top drawer basketball quality...) filling out the roster. It was cruel that it should end as it did, leaving the Wolves potentially stuck up lottery creek without a paddle. It seems almost inevitable that the Wolves will be drawn as first pick, but there's no use crying over spilt Milko Marko (although there is a lot of use in brutally criticising the management decisions that created this situation because GOD DAMN.) Fortunately, the Utah Jazz managed to secure us our draft pick, which may net a decent piece to build towards future success. Or, knowing the team, it may net us a contempt magnet for two years hence. 18th pick is not anything to start getting thrilled over, but at least it's something.

Like the midterm, I'm going to focus this mostly on the players individually. For each guy I'll recap the season and suggest some future improvement pathways I'd like to see (for some guys this will be a significantly longer list...). I expect plenty of discussion on other parts of the site about future team building, probably from the staff for a start, so I won't go much into that (can we get a shooting guard kthnx). I grade on a fairly arbitrary curve against my expectations for a player's role. For a bit of fun, I've also suggested some free association theme music for some of the guys in the team, their strengths, weaknesses, and my favorite and least favorite moves for each squad member.

I've been a touch busier at work than I expected to be, so this is less polished and thought out than I might like so I'll have to beg your indulgence if errors have crept in here or there, and the fanpost editor isn't really kind to things this long. Also before anything else I'd like to thank the academy bsg for suggesting this very entertaining concept which has been great fun for me and I imagine for everyone else who had a go - there's been a lot of variations and imagination on the basic theme which has been very entertaining, even when the games have not. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the site from the staff downwards! Ok, let's get on with it.

Team Statistics: (all stats given are per Basketball Reference)

PTS/G: 97.9 (10th of 30) ▪ Opp PTS/G: 100.1 (25th of 30)
W-L: 26-40 (21st of 30) ▪ Pace: 93.3 (4th of 30)
Off Rtg: 104.3 (18th of 30) ▪ Def Rtg: 106.6 (25th of 30)

Jose Juan Barea

Point Guard, 6'0" (yeah, right, and I'm Michael Jordan)

6th Year

Stats: (all stats in this report card are per game unless otherwise stated.)

41 games, 11 starts, 25.2 mpg

11.3 pts, 10.2 fga, 3.5 3pa, FG% .400, TS% .502, FT% .776, 3pt% .371.

5.7 apg, 2.8 rpg, 0.5stls, 2.5 tos, 0.0 blk, 1.5 pfs

PER: 14.9, WS/48: .056.

  • Barea attempted the most field goals per game in his career with his lowest shooting percentage since his rookie year.
  • His assists and assist percentage are new personal records.
  • Per 36, Barea had 16.2 pts, 8.1 ast and 4.0 reb. Which is not bad!
  • JJ recorded his first career triple double against Oklahoma City on the 23rd March.

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A pure example of JJ's go-to move

Season Recap:

I really don't know what to make of JJ Barea. Occasionally he'll be out there genuinely tearing it up, racking up points, rebounds and offensive fouls drawn, then suddenly the Puerto Rican magic will be gone and all that's left is a pretty small guy chucking up ill-advised shots and murdering the offense. His stats are fairly demonstrative, it must be said. Barea has technically had a career year, with highs in minutes, points, assists and rebounds, but it is his worst year for Win Shares since 2008. His True Shooting is below .500 for the first time since his rookie year. His unadjusted field goal percentage is down below .400! What this shows is a textbook example of a guy who has just tried to do a little too much and paid for that with a drop in efficiency. Efficiency, as Wolves fans probably know as well as anybody, is the key to basketball.

Personally I really don't like it when JJ is playing the point and looking for his shot. For a start, he misses more than he makes right now, but more importantly when JJ Barea has a mind to distribute the basketball he can really rack up the dimes. In pick and roll situations, as we saw so much during his time in Dallas, Barea's skill is right up there. He's pinged it around for the Wolves to get an impressive 8.1 assists per 36 minutes, only .5 behind Ricky himself. It's just that it feels as though he gets assists in fits and starts - he'll get five or so and key out a big lead, then get none for long stretches of time. This is sort of what happened when we lost the games against Golden State, and in the woeful loss to the Nuggets in the last game. Coming off the bench, his kind of streaky productivity would be a lot more useful, and of course sixth man would be his role on a healthy Timberwolves team. Also, although I haven't checked any stats on this (because I don't really know how, or at least can't be bothered to find out) he doesn't seem to have developed much of an offensive rapport with Kevin Love, which itself is rather sharply limiting. You'd have thought those years with Dirk would have accustomed him to pick and pop, but it seems the subtle differences between Nowitzki and Love have been enough to throw Barea off. With any luck, this year's experience and a training camp will be able to iron out the kinks, and we won't have to listen to Collin Love dissing our Puerto Rican any more.

The things that most impresses me about Barea is that he is one of the toughest guys around the league. It can't be easy being the smallest guy, especially when his game is pesky, in your face, and often played down in the painted area. His go-to move, after all, is the old "be punched in the face" routine. He doesn't seem fazed or intimidated by anyone, and is often the first (or only) guy on the team to get in the face of the opposition.

Overall, JJ's inconsistency and injuries haven't shown us his best in his first year as a Minnesota Timberwolf, and he's ultimately disappointed. Next year we will need him to return to his best form as the second unit leader.

Favorite Move:

I liked JJ calling out the team after the second Warriors loss, but on court I guess it's got to be the facepunch special. Don't use that off arm when JJ is guarding you, because as soon as he feels that hit his jaw that whistle is going.

Worst Move:

Continually attempting contested layups during opposition scoring runs.

Strengths:

quick, pick and roll, handle, distribution, draws offensive fouls, rebounds better than might be expected, plays mind games, scores in bunches, vocal leader, tough, playoff experience, long shooting range, gets to the rim.

Weaknesses:

looks for shot first, very streaky, lacks NBA size, midrange defending, steals, fast break decisions, playing style makes him injury prone, inefficiency, turnover prone, can be predictable, takes bad shots, does not control tempo, plays out of control, overplays his role.

Grade: B-

Some good games and the excuse of injury keep him a bit higher than he might have fallen, but it would have been nice to get a little more consistent play out of Barea as our "big free agent" of the season.

Next Year:

Stay healthy, have a strong training camp, be the first off the bench energy guy to change things up. He can do it, he has the tools to be a championship sixth man. He's done it before.

Jj-barea

Congratulations to JJ and Ms Rivera on the birth of their first child! And also wow, but I'm still taller than him.

Michael Beasley

Small Forward/Power Forward, 6'9"

4th Year

Stats:

47 games, 7 starts, 23.1 mpg

11.5 pts, 10.6 fga, 2.1 3pa, FG% .445, TS% .502, 3PT% .376, FT% .642 (!)

1.0 ast, 4.4 reb, 0.4 stl, 0.4 blk, 1.7 tos, 1.8 pfs.

PER: 13.0. WS/48: .022

  • Easily Michael Beasley's worst statistical year.
  • Career low in minutes played.
  • Offensive rating is only 95!
  • Best three point shooting year.

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Admit it. You'll miss him!

Season Recap:

Beasley... sigh. This one I really don't want to write, because it's very sad. As much as I like Michael Beasley, he had a poor year that strongly suggests he's going to be another unfulfilled-potential guy. Some players with similar physical profile and mentality (read Kevin Durant) become MVP candidates - Beasley becomes an inconsistent ball stopper who hurts the team on D. Apart from his improved three point shooting this year, Beasley's scoring touch seemed to leave him for long stretches and he shot free throws at a terrible rate. On those occasions when everything was working for him, such as that game against Houston (34 points on 14 shots) he is a dynamic game changing force - the rest of the time, which is a LOT of time indeed, he was hindering team success more than anything. When playing with Derrick Williams, especially, his faults seemed to be magnified. You know how sometimes things are greater than the sum of their parts? Well, Williams and Beasley together had terrible defense greater than the sum of their inadequacies - it was s*** squared.

On the positive side, outwardly at least he seemed willing to embrace a lesser role most of the time (although reports suggest he wasn't thrilled with it in private), seems to like living in Minnesota and playing for the team, and perhaps due to Adelman's influence gamely attempted to play defense. When he is working his skills correctly, taking good shots from the elbow or the three point line, drawing and making free throws to boost his often poor efficiency, using his athleticism to grab a few boards, singing Britney Spears, not ball watching on D, you can see why he was the second pick in the draft a few years ago. There is talent there, heaps of it. Is that enigmatic talent worth his rather intimidating qualifying offer?

Bluntly, no.

If he comes back for less - perhaps at most half his QO, then he can have a chance to try and become that scoring sixth man he seems best adapted to be.

Favorite Move:

Elbow jumpshots. If he beats his man on the drive and pulls up, he often gets a very good look with his high release and leaping ability. It's even better if he uses his athleticism to get all the way to the rim and finish with his one of his scooping layup variations.

Worst Move:

Contested long jump shots. He should try and get past his man more when being guarded within the arc, rather than pulling up for the NBA's worst shot. It drives me up the wall, honestly.

Strengths:

size, vertical, shooting range, elbow jumpshots, finishes well with left hand, good locker room guy, can score in bunches, keys runs, can use size in the post.

Weaknesses:

inefficient, takes bad shots, poor defender, ball-watches, ball stopper, has predictable game, inconsistent, unreliable isolation skills, turnovers, ineffective off the ball, no off hand, unwilling to play back to the basket.

Grade: D

Statistically his worst season ever, in what is essentially a contract year and with probably a more suitable role assigned, he could only manage 3 really good games.

Next Year:

If we see him playing for us next year, I want to see Beasley the efficient game changing sixth man getting 15 point games more often than not. I expect to be disappointed, but you never know. Despite everything, you should note he scored 17.9 points per 36, good for third on the team.

Theme Song:

"Cheap and Cheerful" by the Kills. After all, he only cost two second rounders. And I doubt any second round rookie will be really useful until after Kevin Love has declined his option and left, so they don't matter.

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Unfortunately one of his better moments this year.

Wayne Ellington

Shooting Guard, 6'4"

3rd Year

Stats:

51 games, 4 starts, 19.1 mpg

6.1 pts, 5.9 fga, 2.1 3pa, fg% .404, TS% .487, 3PT% .324 (!), FT% .800

0.6 ast, 1.9 reb, 0.5 stl, 0.2 blk, 0.5 tov, 1.1 pfs

PER: 9.4, WS/48: .041

  • Ellington's career high in win shares by some distance, reflecting defensive improvement.
  • Only 1.3 three pointer made per 36 on 4 attempts - that needs to go up.
  • TOV% a nice low 7.5.
  • It's interesting that his rookie year remains his best scoring season. And slightly worrying, because he played similar minutes and took similar amounts of shots then as now...

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BEST DAY EVAH

Season Recap:

All too often this year I've been seeing our posters describe Wayne Ellington as "a shooter who can't shoot." It's a shame that it's difficult to entirely disagree with this, seeing as Ellington played his career high in minutes and got his career low in scoring and three point shooting. However, Ellington definitely had his best year as a man defender. He didn't turn the ball over very much, either, which was nice. If his shooting had improved in line with his defending - or at least stayed consistent, he would be a useful bench contributor.

Wayne has a nice looking jumpshot, with full extension, lots of lift from the legs and smooth release. He can hit shots from all over the floor, but is most effective from the 16-23 point range. For example, according to his shot chart on basketball reference, he went 12-16 on shots from that distance on the right wing. That's pretty good! His 30% from 3-9 feet, however, is pretty not good, and speaks to one of his serious weaknesses. If they close out on his jumper and he escapes down towards the paint, Ellington just isn't a threat. It's one part of the lack of ballhandling across the team which coach Adelman has highlighted a few times. A lot of our guys, like Ellington, don't have that multiple dimension to their game to keep (good) defenses honest. Even Ricky has this problem to a certain extent.

Ellington had some good performances early in the year that had me think that he would get a few starts in place of Johnson. I still feel like it would have been worth running him out with Rubio, Webster, Love and Pekovic, but there you go. Towards the end, he faded a touch along with the rest of the team, but overall I don't think Ellington had a bad year. He might have hoped to have a third year breakout to really establish himself as an NBA player: didn't really manage it, so next year is going to be big for him.

Favorite Move:

He doesn't do it enough, but Ellington is quite good at initiating and finishing fast breaks.

Worst Move:

Missing shots in the paint.

Strengths:

Jumpshot form, stays in front of his man, does the little things, hustles for the loose ball, quick, fast, good size, takes care of the ball, defends without fouling.

Weaknesses:

inconsistent scorer, could stand to rebound more, lacks an elite skill, a bit one-dimensional, needs to improve his three point shot, not a distributor, handling an issue.

Grade: B-

Not setting the world on fire, but I thought there were some positives to Ellington's development, and at least he seemed to be putting the effort in.

Next Year:

He wants to get some serious offseason shots up. If Wayne can boost his three pointer percentage up to 40/45, he'll be a valuable bench player. Even just more work on shooting off the escape dribble could potentially open up enough space for him to get that efficiency jump.

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Let us not forget that Wayne and Ricky set a beautiful double screen for the best moment of the season!

Wesley Johnson

Small Forward, 6'7"

Sophomore

65 games, 64 starts (!), 22.6 mpg

6.0 pts, 6.1 fga, 2.6 3pa, FG% .398 (!), TS% .477 (!!!), 3PT% .314 (!!!!!) FT% .706

0.9 ast, 2.7 reb, 0.5 stl, 0.7 blk, 0.9 tov, 1.8 pfs

PER: 8.0, WS/48: .021

  • Johnson only attempted 34 free throws on the year. For random comparison, Ricky Rubio took 157, Beasley took 95, Love took 460, and Tolliver took 55. And lo: the scrubs did make him their king!
  • Let us not dwell further in the Land of Nod that is Johnson's stats.

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Wes having a shootaround.

Season Recap:

I now knight thee Sir Bust of Bustington! One can't even say that Johnson's career has flamed out, because that would be crediting him with all too much excitement value. This is very much a "not with a bang but a whimper" scenario. It's hard to know where to start, but I guess you have to begin by wondering why on earth Johnson started so many games for the team despite his terrible performances.

My supposition is that Wesley is the only small forward option that we have who doesn't demand isolation shots when Kevin Love could be shooting. Therefore he was starting as much for team balance as anything else, but it's just a shame he took a step back defensively and on the glass. His rather decent passing is somewhat obscured by his total unreliability as a ballhandler. He doesn't get the rim and was appalling at getting free throws

He also just doesn't have that "glue guy" mentality which can make players who are not huge stat amassers so valuable. Consider, for instance, the differences between Jared Dudley and Wesley Johnson. Dudley doesn't really have the athleticism Johnson has in his little finger, but through his effort and basketball smarts consistently performs at a level Wes is many tiers away from approaching. Johnson now seems to have a ceiling which is at most Thabo Sefolosha. Fourth pick to take the poor man's Thabo Sefolosha? Yeah, what a great draft decision that was!

To sum up, Johnson was utterly hopeless pretty much from the first tip off. Jonny Flynn has had a better, more positively impactful season. And that about says it all.

Favorite Move:

uhhh... even if he misses them a lot, Johnson does a good job of getting open for three pointers? Or, perhaps, they are just leaving him open... He does pass the ball well, I suppose. Shame he cant handle so that doesn't matter.

Worst Move:

His tendency to disappear completely. It's hard to be invisible in pro basketball, where the paucity of players means that everyone's contributions on court get noticed. Sometimes it felt like the Wolves were playing 4 on 5, with Johnson nowhere to be seen. Quite a feat in the abstract, but it isn't going to help build that winning team we all want.

Strengths:

passing, vertical, positioning, help blocks.

Weaknesses:

shooting touch, effort, mentality, decision-making, tendency to disappear, transition defense, transition offense, defensive consistency, turnovers, handling, rebounding, inefficiency, potential, age, not being very good.

Grade: F

There's nothing redeeming about Johnson's season, which was a massive disappointment on every level.

Next Year:

Johnson may have to abandon any hopes of being a top class reasonable player and try and reinvent himself as a 10-20 minute bench guy. There's room in the NBA for role players, for specialists. Unfortunately Johnson has a very broad skillset that's less deep than the characterisation of an extra in Sex and The City, so he may have quite a difficult time of it. Could he become a Jason Kaponesque three point marksman? A defensive specialist? Could he be the next Crunch? For what it's worth, I would be not altogether depressed if he learned to shoot corner three pointers at >45% and nothing else, like Steve Novak. I'm not holding my breath. We should send him to the E-League and curse Darko for needing the amnesty more.

Theme Song:

"Looking At The Invisible Man" by the Dead Weather.

Single-brick_medium

Do you get the subtle symbolism?

Malcolm Lee

Combo Guard, 6'5"

Rookie

Stats:

19 games, 0 starts, 12.8 mpg

3.3 pts, 3.1 fga, 0.5 3pa, FG% .390, TS% .466, FT% .824, 3PT% .200

1.6 ast, 1.4 reb, 0.4 stl, 0.2 blk, 0.9 tov, 1.2 pfs.

PER: 9.3, WS/48: .024

  • Per 36, Lee recorded 9.2 pts, 4.6 ast, 3.9 reb, 2.5 tov. That's better than I expected. Got 2.5 free throws per 36 and made 82% of them, too.
  • TOV% (20.4) was higher than AST% (19.8). That's not good, and exposes that he's not ready to be a primary ballhandler.

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See, media? Cold is fun!

Season Recap:

Someone in the organization liked Mal Lee, because he got a three year guaranteed contract early in training camp. Shortly afterwards he busted his knee, and got sent down to the D-League to recover from it. Eventually, as the injuries mounted up we needed his presence for the main team, and we got our first look at our second rounder. And turned out there are things to like.

He has the makings of a defender. A good one. Unlike so many rookies (and certain experienced Wolves who shall remain Beasley nameless) he has a natural defensive awareness, quick feet and fast reactions. He stays with his man, fights over screens, rotates well and shades the passing lanes. Now I'm not going to overstate the case and say Lee was a stopper - after all, he got torched by Jonny Flynn - but there were enough flashes to give reason to limited optimism.

Lee has some point guard tools, but the limitations his ball handling and distribution will mean he'll probably never be more than a secondary ball handling option. In particular, he is weak going to his left - when he heads that way it looks like the ball catches fire and he has to slap at it to put it out.

Lee has good NBA size and speed. In particular, he has a change of pace that reminds me strongly of Tony Parker. Going inside to the hoop he has talent but will need to polish up his finishing in order to be a scoring threat. His jumpshot range goes out to the three point line, but it is at best unreliable, so don't expect to be calling him Malcolm Three too often.

Favorite Move:

He's never actually scored with it, but Lee has the ability to do a Rondoesque behind the back fake layup attempt. Very cool, if completely ineffective. I love his change of pace, too.

Worst Move:

Dribbling to the left.

Strengths:

big, fast, very quick, defensive awareness, man defense, first step, passing in the paint, achieves dribble penetration, contests shots, potential, plays passing lanes.

Weaknesses:

shaky fundamentals, right hand dominant, unreliable scorer, pick and roll defense, fast break.

Grade: B

He hasn't shown anything exceptional, but did you really expect more?

Next Year:

Some of us have expressed a wish that Lee could be the next Tony Allen. With rose tinted glasses off, really I doubt if he'll ever be that good (anyone else agree Allen is a legit DPOY candidate?) but Lee could have a decent career as a defensive specialist and secondary ballhandler if he's willing to work at it. Improved three point shooting would be excellent - then he could form a nice backcourt tandem with Rubio.

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Those four letters often work out well.

Kevin Love

Power Forward/Center, 6'10"

4th year

Stats:

55 games, 55 starts, 39.0 mpg (2nd NBA)

26.0 ppg, 19.3 fga, 5.1 3pa, 8.4 fta, FG% .448, 3P% .372, FT% .824, TS% .568

2.0 ast, 13.3 reb, 0.9 stl, 0.5 blk, 2.3 tov, 2.8 pfs.

PER: 25.4, WS/48: .223

  • ...
  • Ho. Ly. S***.
  • Ok so that's all pretty awesome. Bit of a drop in rebound percentage but that's obviously because he had Pek and more time on the perimeter and was still top 5 NBA in every rebound pure and metric statistical category.
  • Only Kobe, LeBron and KD had more made free throws. That's really impressive for a guy who doesn't primarily drive to the hoop to pick up fouls. He got them through unstoppable motor and pure yeoman work down low.
  • A little surprisingly considering how the Wolves turned it over so ridiculously often, Love had his career low TOV% (9.2) against his career high USG% (28.8).
  • Be honest. Did you ever expect that that chunky-looking rookie with the horrible chinstrap would ever be fifth in the league in points scored? Fantastic.

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Kevin Love opens an invisible patio door against Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles I Can't Believe They're In The Playoffs And We're Not It's Not Fair-ers.

Season Recap:

Allow me to make the following argument for Kevin Love as an MVP candidate. Any questions?

Here

Thought not.

Ok, but seriously, let's devote some time to Kevin Love's awesome play. This year he took another giant leap forward with an unbelievable physical revamp. He was quicker, sharper, and no less strong. His rebounding is still there, but coach Adelman had the nous to allow Love to play the outside-in game that is unaccountably sneered at in certain quarters (coughShaqcough) despite, you know, providing TWENTY-SIX POINTS PER GAME. Love is a great three point shooter, winning of course the all-star shoot out, and I think without doubt the finest pick and pop player in the league right now. On the wing, especially the left wing, you have confidence he's going to make the shot. Late in games he's turned into a clutch scorer, hitting gamewinners and scoring tons of fourth quarter points. And he's a much improved post scorer, now with a very nice bump-and-righty-hook move and a shades-of-Timmy face-up bank shot. And he's added an escape dribble to his arsenal when teams over-rotate to his jumpers, which he can even take to the rack. And he reverse dunked that one time and looks to be getting up to the rim a lot easier with the new physique. And he's got his pump fake down to a more reasonable rate of attempts. AND he draws fouls at an elite rate and makes a very nice percentage of free throws. The conjunctions just keep on coming.

I don't really go for it personally, but there are legs to the "MIP award consideration for Love" conversation. Only Kevin Garnett really shut him down as a scorer this year, looking back.

Little needs to be said about his rebounding. He's just great at it, and the drop off in d-boarding once he took an elbow to the head was brutal. He's a decent passer - if not a high volume assist guy - and considering he touches the ball on 95% of Timberwolf possessions his turnover count is not terrible. Defensively he's not as bad as ignorant observers tend to assume - in post up situations for example he's damn good, and he is very good at sliding his feet around to get defensive positions and angles - but he's not a shotblocker really and isn't great at defending the pick and roll. He also has a slightly odd tendency to flap his arms at players when he's been beaten in the paint, allowing and-ones. When he seemed tired and deflated before picking up the concussion his defending collapsed entirely, but the season was lost by that point. After he stepped on Luis Scola's face (a dumb thing to do and he deserved his suspension) his complaining to referees toned down a bit, but it was still annoying. In his defense, he was high in the league in free throw makes but could easily have had loads more, because hacking Kevin Love became a sport in itself. Blake Griffin complains about hard hits? Hah!

He played great throughout the year with very few low spots. His March performances were astounding. It's only rotten luck with injuries that kept him from a first playoff experience, but his dumb-as-hell contract means that another unlucky season or two gives him an easy out to join Oklahoma or something and form a super team. /shiverindread

Favorite Move:

A shot he started using more as the season progressed was a run back turnaround wing trey. That he can make that sort of shot just disproves the stupid "he can't get his own shot" thing. I also loved when he would go into "eff this" mode in fourth quarters and just start taking and making every shot.

Worst Move:

Arguing with calls then not getting back on D to allow an easy transition bucket. 4 point swing. Yuck.

Strengths:

Offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding, put backs, outlet passing, shooting range, jump shooting, face up shooting, hook shooting, bank shooting, three point shooting, free throw shooting, shooting in traffic, inside finishing, drawing contact, drawing fouls as ballhandler, drawing fouls off the ball, pick and pop, pick and roll, post defense, clutch, IQ, confidence, consistency, motor, general ass-kicking awesomeness, "consummate professionalism", great hands.

Weaknesses:

shot blocking, fouling, perimeter defense, impetuosity, transition defense.

Grade: A+

I hoped for and expected a really good season. An MVP candidate? All-time statistical season? Three Point Contest Winner? Get out of here, KLove, that's amazing.

Next Year:

I dare not predict where Love goes next. If he can become a better defender in the pick and roll that would be nice, otherwise he should just do what he does and come back awesome. And change his new hairstyle, because no. Just no.

Free Association Theme Song(s):

It's too easy with Love. Let's go for the obvious "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by the awesome Joy Division.

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Silverware to tide him over until he takes someone else the Wolves to the top.

Darko Milicic

Center, 7'0"

9th Year

Stats:

29 games, 23 starts, 16.3 mpg

4.6 ppg, 4.5 fga, 1.3 fta, FG% .454, FT% .432 (!!!!!! Jesus), TS% .458

0.6 ast, 3.3 rpg, 0.3 stl, 0.9 blk (!), 1.1 tov, 2.0 pfs.

PER: 9.0, WS/48 .003 (positive contribution!)

  • From the glory of Kevin Love to this? Curse you alphabetical order!
  • Darko had the team's third best field goal percentage. And the lowest TS%. I love True Shooting. It is wonderfully indicative.
  • His WS/48 of .003 is his worst since his rookie year in Detroit.
  • He got only 1.9 blocks per 36. For a guy with only one noteworthy skill - blocking shots - that's no good. Last year he had 3 per 36 and was at least doing something.

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"ssh, ssh, I know it's only Larry Brown's fault that you aren't as good as me."

Season Recap:

Just amnesty him already, for the love of the basketball gods.

...

Oh, all right, here's a proper recap.

So Darko was useless. Biblically awful. He still didn't have anything to score with except the hook of fail, seemed not to care, was as inconsistent as ever. eventually just got badly of out of shape and slammed down so deep into the bench you can see an imprint of his face in the chairs. But the most annoying thing, the thing that even makes me quite angry in a way I usually wouldn't about basketball, is how unnecessary it is to write this stuff. There's a useful player in there, somewhere!

Remember the Clipper game, with the Love buzzer beater. Of course you do. Remember who led all scorers? Well, it was Mo Williams, but who was second? One Milicic, D., with 22 points on 15 shots. Remember the Dallas road win? The one where Darko had a 8pts,8reb,7blk in 22 minutes? Very few of the NBA's real scrubs can have games like that against Western playoff locked squads. Why is he mostly so terrible, then? I think it's because he obviously doesn't like playing basketball very much, and has no motivation, no drive. If things go badly for only a couple of plays he gives up faster than a man trying to cut down the tallest tree in the forest with a herring. I find this irritating, because of how much I hate 90% of the time I spend working. He gets to play basketball for a living and hates it that much? I wish I could get paid $20 million to be a miserable bastard and not do any work.

Darko has declared his intention to retire when his contract expires - let us save him the trouble of waiting a year and wave him on to whatever it is seven foot tall people do when they aren't playing basketball. Help his relatives get things off high shelves or be a scale double for the Hobbit movie, perhaps.

Favorite Move:

When he bothers, he's one of the league's top shot blockers. He has an astonishing ability to block shots without jumping.

Worst Move:

The lefty fail hook. He doesn't have any moves even to set it up properly. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I have a more diverse post game than Darko (it's true! In rec games I get most of my points down in the low post) How hard can it be to learn an up and under in nine professional years, Milicic? If I can do it, you damn well ought to be able to. The other bad move that sticks in the mind was I think perhaps the quintessential Darko move - finally dunking the ball rather than missing a weak ass little lay in and cutting his hand on the rim. Typical.

Strengths:

Long and athletic, shotblocker, is retiring.

Weaknesses:

doesn't give a ****, inconsistent, won't dunk, terrible percentage at the rim, predictable post game, overpaid, seriously weird dude.

Grade: F (is there a G?)

This year's coach actually understands who is good and who is bad. Darko's "injury" benching reflects that he is firmly in the "bad" category. Firmly, in the same way that rails of tungsten carbide embedded several miles deep into the ancient rock of Eagle Mountain can be said to be a firm anchoring point.

Next Year:

If Darko returns, gods forbid, I would like to see him steal the essence of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the manner of the movie Space Jam. Otherwise... meh.

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One of these is not like the others.

Brad Miller:

Center, 7'0"

14th Year

Stats:

15 games, 1 start, 9.7 mpg

2.3 ppg, 1.8 fga, 1.0 3pa, FG% .333, 3pt% .467, TS% .542

1.6 ast, 1.3 reb, 0.3 stl, 0.1 blk, 0.8 tov, 0.7 pfs

PER: 10.7, WS/48 .060

  • Which I guess is why he's retiring.

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Miller's career high bad decision.

Season Recap:

Did you know that Brad Miller once averaged 15, 9 and 4 for Sacramento? In his day, Miller was the kind of solid rotation player who forms a part of deep playoff teams. Those days, I'm afraid, are past, and Miller has decided to retire from the NBA after 13 professional years. He ends his career having played 867 games, starting 598 of them, and averaging a respectable 11.2, 7.1 and 2.8. For the Wolves this year, Miller just looked very limited physically and technically. His offensive arsenal was limited to three pointers and his rather beautiful passing from the elbow to baseline cutters, and defensively he just wasn't there at all. Frankly, when he came on to play it was more funny than anything, to see just how much Rick Adelman hated watching Darko Milicic play. If you can't beat out this year's Brad Miller, no disrespect, that's pretty god-damn pathetic.

Favorite Move:

Splashing 3 straight treys in his last game in Sacramento was a fairly heart-warming moment.

Worst Move:

Physical limitations rather taking some of the dignity of a once proud and competent athlete is never something one wishes to see.

Strengths:

passing, shooting range, playbook familiarity, extra coach.

Weaknesses:

Age, athleticism, rebounding, defending, post play.

Grade: B

Miller was never expected to get off the bench for more than garbage minutes and help the team with learning Adelman's playbook. In his one start, he unexpectedly played quite well in his farewell to Sacramento, his basketball home.

Next Year:

I can only wish Miller all the best for the future.

Theme Song:

"Cavatina", theme from "The Deer Hunter."

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Can you see the terror? "Fear the deer" no more...

Nikola Pekovic

Center, 6'11"

NBA Sophomore, 9th year pro

Stats:

47 games, 35 starts, 26.9 mpg

13.9 ppg, 9.7 fga, 4.0 fta, FG% .564, FT% .743, TS% .607

0.7 ast, 7.4 reb, 0.6 stl, 0.7 blk, 1.9 tov, 2.1 pfs

PER: 21.4, WS/48 .170

  • PER has completely lost what little faith I had in it this year, but as a "doing stuff" metric, as Stop-and-Pop sometimes says, Pek's leap upwards of 10.2 is magnificent.
  • His fouls per 36 are down from 7.3 (!) to 2.8. That was a key, as was the turnover reduction.
  • Pekovic finished the season second in unadjusted field goal percentage and sixth in true shooting.
  • Pek is a rare big man who collects offensive rebounds at a better rate than defensive. 3.9 O-boards a game is very good - it's fourth in the league after Varejao (only 25 games) Boogie Cousins and of course the Love Machine.
  • Per 36, Pekovic was only 0.1 rebounds away from averaging a double double (18.5 and 9.9). That definitely makes him a most improved candidate.

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Nod to the Timbertrolls. Hope to them again next year...

Season Recap:

One of the brightest spots in the season was the emergence of PEKKKKKKK!!!!!! In the modern NBA with a lack of real scoring centers, Pek is a breath of dominating air. Unlike so many NBA players he understands his skillset and plays within his strengths (Anthony Randolph is an example of what happens when players fail to do this). Chief among his strengths is his, er, strength. He must be the strongest player in the league, who can move mighty bodies like Dalembert or M Gasol with naught but a shrug of his gigantic crusadered shoulders. It is very fun to watch, as in the hilarious clip where DeMarcus Cousins pushed Pek and ended up twelve feet away. Despite his physical play, however, Pekovic has quite a refined and elegant set of post moves. He has a hook with either hand, soft touch on inside layups, a couple of little three step running fallaway variations (he can make a right handed fallaway going from the right block. That's a tough shot in traffic unless you have good touch) and an absolutely money up and under which generates a lot of three point play opportunities. He adds those extra points, too, because unlike a lot of similar players he is a very fine free throw shooter. Pek can seal off almost anybody and is rather skilled at creating space and lanes by sealing multiple defenders. He is extremely capable as a roll man in the PnR game because of surprising agility - is maybe a better roll man than Kevin Love to be honest. On the glass, Pek isn't great on the D boards but is an elite offensive rebounder. Combined with Kevin Love the Wolves have without doubt the best offensive rebounding frontcourt in the league - it's one of the best all around starting frontcourts that anyone has, really. Definitely the best offensive pairing in the NBA in my opinion. MGasol/Randolph and PGasol/Bynum are far better defensively though.

Towards the end of the year his excellent statistical efficiency declined a shade, mostly as a consequence of his ankle injury (he was really gutting it out to play with almost no lift or explosiveness around the rim) but for long periods he was up in the top five for True Shooting Percentage, a glorious thing to have on your side in the NBA. Efficiency rules all, especially for a low box frontcourt player where the opportunities are higher percentage. He finished the season sixth in the true shooting chart with a more than creditable .607. His shot chart is fantastic, just a massive coloured splodge under the rim (with a few misses outside the paint, and one random made 16 footer).

There's been some suggestions of moving Nikola Pekovic. Let me break this down for you. Don't trade Nikola Pekovic. Trading one of the top six most efficient scorers in the league? You must be kidding. Besides, his presence down low anchors the paint enough that Love can afford to drop out to the perimeter as much as he was. They are wonderfully complementary on offense, whatever the defensive lapses. I'll live with those to have an elite offense.

Favorite Move:

Pekovic is an excellent roll man and can finish with authority out of a pick and roll set, but my favourite Pek moments are the shoulder bashes that send lesser men flying out of bounds. When he did that to Sammy D I laughed for about five minutes.

Worst Move:

One of the best things about Pek is plays so within his skills that he doesn't really do bad things. This is part of what makes him so valuable. If I had to choose, it's his poor boxing out on the defensive glass.

Strengths:

Strength, finishing, great hands, post moves, setting picks, rolling off picks, offensive rebounding, decision-making, efficiency, free throws, IQ, complements Kevin Love, legitimate center size.

Weaknesses:

vertical, shot blocking, help defending, defensive rebounding, shooting range.

Grade: A+

I didn't expect a lot out of Pekovic this season and he forced me to revise my opinion with his exceptionally strong play. Since all-star weekend he hasn't been quite as effective, due mostly to playing through injury. He deserves his A+.

Free Association Theme Song(s):

Pek needs something epic. I always think of the stylings of Finnish folk metal band Turisas as particularly appropriate. He would be the scariest damn Viking you ever did see.

Oh, and no Pek youtube would be complete without his favourite band, terrible Serbian hip-hop collective Beogradski Sindikat and the hugely subtle (%) turbo-folk extravaganza "Seksi Biznesman" from Pek's ex, Goga Sekulic.

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One of the most amazing things about Pek is he actually carries this off.

Anthony Randolph

Power Forward, 6'11"

4th Year

Stats:

34 games, 5 starts, 15.2 mpg

7.4 ppg, 5.9 fga, 2.5 fta, FG% .470, FT% .762, TS% .532

0.6 ast, 3.6 reb, 0.4 stl, 1.0 blk, 1.2 tov, 1.6 pfs

PER: 17.6, WS/48 .099

  • Per 36, AR managed a decent looking 17.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks
  • His total rebound percentage of 13.2 is pretty low and is part of why those games after Love went down were so consistently brutal.

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He doesn't smile for Minnesota... what did we ever do?

Season Recap:

Ladies and gentlemen, your 11-12 season's Most Frustrating Player! Randolph is the guy I really can't get a handle on. What is he good at? Is he good at anything? Is he mediocre at everything? Why are his per 36 numbers so good?

Theoretically, as I think vjl observed a couple weeks back, Randolph is the perfect complement to Love and Pekovic. Where they are limited jumpers, Randolph can leap out of the gym. Where they aren't shotblockers, Randolph loves to get rejections, and so on. In practice, Randolph is ultimately too unreliable to be much more than a deep bench guy. His defense varies from possession to possession, his offense has no rhythm or plan. At the very important back-up forward spot I would like a lot more than what Randolph can bring. When he got a run in the team after late injuries, he was able to beat out DWill but then sent in a series of putrid performances as the team crumbled away, which inclines me to believe his per 36es are a function of his garbage time minutes.

Randolph is a poor rebounder. He is a poor shooter. He is a poor passer. He has a poor post game. About the only things he does well apart from contest shots is finish when he's open and run the floor. And yet, the numbers are there. He has win shares/48 of .099, good for 3rd best on the team. He has the second best FG% after Pekovic. Numbers don't lie... yet perhaps in this case, we might say that the numbers are being economical with the truth.

Favorite Move:

Randolph was a great fast break target for Ricky. In the final game, Ricky even made him smile.

Worst Move:

Long faceup jumpers. No no no. However, his worst move is definitely his ridiculous belief that he should always dribble a few times when he gets a defensive rebound. You are not a point guard, AR!

Strengths:

vertical, length, fast break finishing, dunking, contests shots, blocks shots, helps on D, stat accumulator.

Weaknesses:

Undefined skillset, unreliable performer, can get overpowered physically, boxing out, rebounding, decision-making, offensive black hole.

Grade: C

If he had played a lot better late in the season when he played starter minutes this would have been much higher, but he only added further weight to my suspicion that he just isn't all that good.

Next Year:

If Randolph comes back, he needs to start understanding his role better. On paper, he's complementary to our starting frontcourt, so he needs to emphasize those abilities. Some extra physical bulk would be a good start, and as much defensive improvement as he can manage. Randolph seems to have decided he's a face-up midrange scorer, so he might want to work on the Chris Bosh style midrange pick and pop game.

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When David Stern looks more muscular next to you, it might be time to bulk up a bit.

Luke Ridnour

Point Guard/Shooting Guard, 6'2"

9th Year

Stats:

53 games, 53 starts, 33 mpg

12.1 ppg, 10.4 fga, 2.9 3pa, 2.2 fta, FG% .440, 3p% .322 (!) FT% .891

4.8 ast, 2.7 reb, 1.1 stl, 0.3 blk, 1.8 tov, 2.6 pfs

PER: 13.6, WS/48 .090

  • Luke's career scoring year, despite the threes.
  • Per 36, Ridnour has never had fewer assists in his career. Turnovers have dropped correspondingly, though, so I think we can fairly attribute this to his role as a shooting guard for much of the season.

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Competent assurance, personified.

Season Recap:

At the risk of damning him with faint praise, Ridnour has rather held the backcourt together since he arrived as a free agent. I know we've sucked pretty hard for most of that time, but if he hadn't played last year we would have started Jonny Flynn at the point. This year we needed him to play shooting guard because our other options there seemed to give coach Adelman stomach ulcers, which must have been a tough assignment for Ridnour, but he put everything he had into it and I appreciate that. Ridnour had a career scoring year (despite a drop off from three point land) at a fairly decent True Shooting clip of .530, got a few assists and kept his turnover rate down while defending as well as he was able. Which, of course, is not that well, but there you go. Wolves fans can't get everything.

He had some nice plays, solid work, a few high scoring games and just generally played pretty well all year. I can't say much more than that, really. In this season, where inconsistency was perhaps the prime team characteristic, his ability to produce regularly was a blessed relief and a major factor in our march towards playoff contention.

There has been talk of trading him. I see that he's the obvious candidate, with his cheap contract, the positional logjam, his all around point guard skills and lovely shooting stroke, but the front office must try and get good value for him if that decision is made. After all, it's a seller's market in starting caliber NBA point guards.

Favorite Move:

Luke has beautiful shooting form - I try and copy it myself when I shootaround (I fail) - on a variety of shots. His free throws and three pointers are lovely, as is his incredibly high percentage jumpshot moving to the left, but it's the floater that Ridnour has down. His shots over DeAndre Jordan and to bury Utah were real season highlights.

Worst Move:

A coinage of community elder Cynical Jason, it's definitely the famous "Ridnover", a missed three early in the shot clock.

Strengths:

Shooting form, free throws, floaters, low turnover rate, high IQ, effort, experience, calm presence, value for money, spaces the floor.

Weaknesses:

man defense, athleticism, rebounding, steals, tendency to allow others to dictate his pace of play.

Grade: A-

I've been a fan of Luke since he's been with us, and I expected a solid year like this. His good play as a shooting guard bumps him into the A range - we were winning games when he was playing there next to Ricky, lest we forget.

Next Year:

Ridnour is probably facing the downslope of his career. If he could get his three point shot back to 40% that would be excellent, otherwise he should just make sure he's in a good shape.

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One of the season's best moments.

Ricky Rubio

Point Guard, 6'4"

NBA Rookie, 7th year pro

Stats:

41 games, 31 starts, 34.2 mpg

10.6 ppg, 9.5 fga, 2.3 3pa, 3.8 fta, FG% .357 (ugh), 3P% .340 (better...), FT% .803 (Yay!) TS% .476

8.2 ast, 4.2 reb, 2.2 stl, 0.2 blk, 3.2 tov, 2.4 pfs

PER: 14.6, WS/48: .070

  • Apparently, combined metric stats don't like Ricky very much... Screw 'em.
  • A rookie point who get 10 and 8 a night? With 2 steals? Excuse me while I dance with joy.
  • Kyrie Irving, good as he is, only had 5 games all year with 8 assists or more. Just saying.
  • Even missing all those games, he was still twentieth in the NBA in total steals! His 2.2 a game, if he'd stayed at that pace, would have made him joint second with Mike Conley behind Chris Paul.
  • But the shooting is not good. Let's get to 40% minimum next year, huh Ricky? Good lad.

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I think Ricky is just the secret indentity of the superhero Hawkeye and he only faked the ACL so he could go and shoot "Avengers Assemble."

Season Recap:

It couldn't have been scripted any better. Sophokles himself couldn't match the timing, the brutal reality of Ricky Rubio's injury. It came in the closing seconds of a tight game against the most objectionable team in the league, a team we never beat. They had finally put away the Trail Blazers for the first time in what felt like decades, and were closing in on taking down the Lake Show. Then Ricky closed out on Bryant, fell, Bryant got the game winning free throws, and the Lakers rolled happily away and left the Timberwolves to tumble to pointless obscurity once again. The only difference between this and Oedipus Tyrannos (well, aside from the setting and the unwitting incest - although there was a mask involved) is that good tragedy provides catharsis. There was no catharsis here and there won't be unless until Ricky takes the Wolves to the playoffs. I really think he has the ability and the mentality to be one of the greatest players in Wolf history, but now we have to wait and see if he can rehab himself into the player he ought to be.

Before the injury, he was struggling a bit with his shot, but the amount we missed his first class perimeter defending after he went down was glaring. Shot blocking is not a notable characteristic of the team's best frontcourt players, and the defending just collapsed late in the season, giving us no chance of winning games against even teams of severe mediocrity. Ricky also pulled down a surprising number of rebounds, with a special knack for getting big rebounds in crunch time - he might be the best rebounding point guard I've seen since Jason Kidd.
As for his passing and court vision, well, much digital ink has already been spent waxing lyrical about that. I'll only say that Ricky and Kevin Love running the pick and pop game with Pekovic down low was perhaps the most potent offense the Wolves have ever had. Ever. It was beautiful - as Simmons (?) said, it was "basketball porn." The beauty of that set was that it really gave the D only one option, crowd the paint and stick a man to Love like a limpet. If you left space to Love, he was lethal from the wing three. If you didn't follow Ricky, he caused vicious havoc with the open passing lanes. If you left only one guy on Pek, he could receive the deep entry pass for a high percentage attempt at the rim. This of course should have led to a barrage of points from the gloriously open wing shooters, but, uh, yeah, we don't talk about that... If Ricky can improve his 15 to 20 foot jumper a few percentage points and we can get a three threat wing, keeping the Wolves below one hundred points a game will be a trying task for any NBA team.

Favorite Move:

I've thought quite a bit recently about what my favorite Ricky move is. There's only one answer, for me, and that's the one handed sling bounce passes. He is ridiculously good at them. If there's the tiniest passing lane in a pick and roll situation Rubio can slide it in there in the blink of an eye while staring anywhere but at the recipient of the pass. A very pure basketball aesthetic, to my mind, and Ricky is nothing if not a basketball aesthete.

Worst Move:

(Bringing help D against masked villains on the perimeter?) Probably his worst tendency is to lean away from contact when shooting layups in heavy traffic.

Strengths:

Court vision, ball handling, distribution, mentality, IQ, flair, on-ball defense, help defense, stealing, disrupts passing lanes, transition defense, pick and roll game, pick and pop game, fast break offense, makes teammates better, dictates offensive tempo, clutch, leader, elite guard rebounder, frustrates opponents, free throws, size, length, long arms, great hands.

Weaknesses:

jump shooting, inside finishing, drawing fouls, turnover prone, ineffective off the ball.

Grade: A+

For changing the franchise, for entertainment value, for his brilliant defense, for his refusal to accept failure, for his dance, for the Timbertrolls, there is no way Rubio can't get an A+.

Next Year:

First, get healthy. If he has to miss training camp, even some games next year, Wolves need Rubio to do a comprehensive rehabilitation on his knee, no half measures. Secondly, he obviously needs to get more effective if the defense goes under his screens. To my less than really expert eye, Ricky's jumpshot has some mechanical flaws but isn't by any stretch a completely lost cause. He needs to improve his legs and release when shooting off the dribble - off the catch from deep he's actually not bad, if painfully slow to release. He could also stand to improve his inside finishing; I would hope that will come with adjustment to the NBA. Otherwise, he already has the tools to eventually become at least Rajon Rondo.

YouTube Free Association Theme Song:

Ricky's such an artist I always think classical and instrumental. A bit of Spanish flavor - how about the wonderful Concerto de Aranjuez by Joaquín Rodrigo ?

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The day the music died.

Anthony Tolliver

Power Forward/Small Forward/Center, 6'8"

4th Year

Stats:

51 games, 0 starts, 17.3 mpg

4.1 ppg, 3.6 fga, 2.0 3pa, 1.1 fta, FG% .390, 3PT% .248 (!) FT% .745, TS% .504

0.4 ast, 3.0 reb, 0.4 stl, 0.4 blk, 0.7 tov, 1.7 pfs

PER: 8.3, WS/48: .049

  • 2 three pointers a game and 24 percent? No. Not good.
  • AT's work isn't really represented very fairly in a stat sheet.

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Perhaps AT's biggest achievement this year was to become Spain's favorite American.

Season Recap:

Tolliver had a poor first half of the season before picking it up for a while after the all star break. Unfortunately, during the run in he was dismal, failing to score in double figures for the whole month of April. This certainly ranks as AT's worst ever season, with career lows per 36 in scoring, rebounding, passing, turnovers, field goal percentage (sub .400!) and three point shooting (sub .250!!!). Despite this I don't remember ever discussing his play that much, and certainly don't remember getting on him for poor performances. In fact I have often expressed a wish that he will be re-signed. I suppose this is either because some guys were playing so badly his own suck passed under the radar, or that AT has such useful hustle, versatility and glue guy mentality that his box scores don't show everything. I'm more inclined more towards the latter, to be honest.

Tolliver's greatest strength is undoubtedly his great versatility. He can play three positions depending on the looks we need, and has a reasonable stab at defending all three of them. He's no great stopper but he's smart and a hard worker, who draws the tough assignments (had Durant in that epic double OT game, for example. He got torched, but Durant was otherworldly and shooting over him, so what can you do). He's also willing to contest shots and risk getting smashed on, which is becoming an increasingly rare characteristic in the NBA. Personally I'd rather see a guy have the guts to get posterized and increase the difficult of a dunk attempt than duck away and allow the easy two.

While he is versatile, Tolliver has plenty of weak areas. Unlike Kevin Love, Tolliver genuinely cannot create his own shot: he was assisted on 81% of made field goals this season. Although he shot a creditable 73% from around the rim, from outside he was charitably erratic and uncharitably, crap. He doesn't get inside enough for my liking, settling far too often for three pointers. There's athleticism there - he can throw it down pretty hard when the mood strikes - and a decent finishing touch on layups, and I would like to see him leverage these attributes more. Nothing wrong with a stretch big man, but you have to able to make the stretch shots at a consistent rate if you are going to take twice as many of them than shots at the rim, I'm afraid. On the plus side, I like that AT generally only shoots either 1-3 footers or three pointers, the efficiency nerd's shots of choice.

Favorite Move:

Splashing the three pointer Ricky delivered to him through the legs of Dirk Nowitzki. For the sake of basketball he had to make that shot, and duly knocked it down.

Worst Move:

Not getting inside enough.

Strengths:

mentality, IQ, hustle, does the little things, versatile, range, defends multiple positions, glue guy, good locker room presence, knows his role, deceptively athletic, brave, team player, above average defender.

Weaknesses:

lacks an elite skill, somewhat foul prone, inconsistent shooter, cannot create own shot, not a great rebounder for a forward, no handle, not very quick, not much of a post player, fairly one dimensional.

Grade: D

I like Tolliver's game and would be happy to see him back (cheaply), but I can't overlook his appalling statistics and horrible performances during what was otherwise the best run the Wolves have had since the KG trade.

Next Year:

I don't think Tolliver has much or any fundamental improvement left in him... I would hope this year is something of a lockout induced blip, and that his three point shooting will climb back to ~40%. Otherwise he ought to expect to see 10-15 minutes depending on fouls and matchups as the fourth big in the rotation.

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Anthony Tolliver is king of the reaction shots.

Martell Webster

Small Forward/Shooting Guard, 6'7"

7th Year

Stats:

47 games, 26 starts, 24.3 mpg

6.9 ppg, 5.8 fga, 2.3 3pa, 1.5 fta, FG% .423, 3P% .339, TS% .533, FT% .792

0.9 ast, 3.6 reb, 0.7 stl, 0.4 blk, 1.0 tov, 1.8 pfs

PER: 10.0, WS/48: .064

  • Webster isn't nearly as bad as these stats suggest. Not that he's great or anything.
  • Why was it that so many of the T-Wolves shot so badly from three?

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Once he cut that off he actually looked like a shooting wing. He was like Samson in reverse.

Season Recap:

During the Denver game, Jim Petersen accurately described Webster as "damaged goods" for the Timberwolves. His injury history has reduced Martell's ability to impact basketball games quite comprehensively - he played in as many games this year as he did last year but his stats are down almost across the board. (Wes Johnson made Webster's 6.8, 3.6 and 0.6 look positively MVP worthy, though.) The Webster who was playing for Portland in the 09-10 season would have been a useful complement to Rubio, Love and Pekovic - the Webster we got was hesitant on his threes, not the defender his physical profile suggests he could be and got to the line at a career low rate per 36.

I find it hard to blame Webster for his limitations, as they are obviously (mostly) a consequence of injury, but his variety of late game brainfart moments should not be forgotten. Webster is still fairly young, having come into the league out of high school, but has enough NBA experience not to dunk when you need three points and turn it over pump faking with five seconds left on the clock. Not really good enough for guy playing his seventh year in the league. For example, he might have

Overall, Webster is another Wolf who disappointed. I really hoped that he would provide the wing shooting the Wolves desperately needed when he returned to the court in late January, but it obviously didn't turn out that way. On the other hand, his hairstyle did remind me of De La Soul and got me listening to 80s rap, which I'd forgotten a lot about and enjoyed rediscovering, so I'm inclined to be charitable towards him. A lesson for life, that - having interesting hair can be a lot more effective towards making people like you than actually doing anything or having any skills. I call this the "popularity of boy-bands" theory.

Favorite Move:

Occasionally he can still elevate to the rim with that oft-hidden athleticism. He had a put-back slam late in the year that was pretty sick.

Worst Move:

His escape dribble and spin move. Webster can shoot the three well enough not to hesitate and allow the D to come to him, and his driving spin move attempts if he fakes out the rotating defender are just dismal.

Strengths:

Size, vertical, shooting range, backdoor cutting, transition.

Weaknesses:

injury prone, injury limited, streaky, inclined to hesitate, defense, turnovers, IQ, unclutch, lacks ballhandling.

Grade: C

I thought even with the injuries he could have been more effective and definitely less error-prone, but there were competent stretches here and there.

Next Year:

Late in the year, Webster's shown less hesitation on his jumpers which has resulted in some high-point performances. If he could start to do that more regularly, he should provide useful bench play.

Theme Song:

"The Magic Number", obviously.

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I still can't believe he did that.

Derrick Williams.

Power Forward, 6'10"

Rookie

Stats:

66 games, 15 starts, 21.5 mpg

8.8 ppg, 7.5 fga, 2.1 3pa, 3.0 fta (good!), FG% .412, 3P% .268 (!!!!!!!) FT% .697, TS% .499

0.6 ast, 4.7 reb, 0.5 stl, 0.5 blk, 1.2 tov, 1.4 pfs

PER: 12.9, WS/48: .059

  • Certain parts of this are best summed up by the sounds made by a flatulent dog.
  • Love the ftas per game. Hate the percentage.
  • 7.9 reb per 36 isn't exactly weak, but...
  • If he gets better in certain key areas though he could be at least adequate.

Derrick-williams_medium

A shot from those heady days where DWill had handles and was our next small forward.

Season Recap:

You'll notice in the little section header up there I've listed Derrick Williams as a pure power forward. This is because he is one. As you probably all know by now, I admit to having next to no knowledge of the rookies coming into the league, but once a guy is drafted by the Wolves I obviously start to get interested in what he can bring to the table. The video on DWill looked quite promising - he appeared to have athleticism to burn (which is true), a natural scoring touch (which is sort of true, on good days, when the moon is full, and he's getting foul calls) and the basic skillset of a small forward (which, unfortunately, is true: especially the "basic" part). When he rocked up to the abbreviated training camp you saw our new young power forward walk into the gym, because Derrick Williams has legitimate NBA forward size. Unfortunately, he showed right from the earliest practices a complete inability to defend quicker players, getting regularly torched by Beasley, which serious flaw carried over into regular season games. Even Al Harrington lit him up in isolation.

I don't doubt that Williams could claim that he had a difficult year because of coming into a Wolves team that is already overloaded at his natural position, but frankly his rookie season has been a serious disappointment. He is a poor defender, possesses no post game worth the name, and despite his incredible physical tools he looks deathly slow on the court. From time to time he will flash the slasher skills that had him consensus number two in the draft, but all too seldom. When he does get past his man, well, his finishing has been a serious area of concern all season. I don't understand why a guy who can finish with such authority at the rim goes up so weakly for layup attempts. When he does go hard enough to get free throws (his future elite skill, one suspects), he's more than earned the mantle of Mr 1-4-2 with a dismal percentage at the charity stripe.

Positives? Well, despite the tone of the preceding paragraphs, I still don't think it unlikely that Derrick Williams could be a solid professional and a beastly scoring forward. He has the physical tools, the natural ones that you just can't teach. He has the bare bones of a decent slasher skillset which can be developed. He has a natural three point jumpshot that I think will only be improved by coaching and time (get rid of that awful kink in it for starters. I suppose he does that to avoid "floating" on the shot, but it's definitely exaggerated. A good jumpshooter's feet go forward - but they don't leap from the arc to the paint). There are reasons to hope Derrick will eventually be able to contribute positively to Minnesota basketball, but right now, he's looking like another poor draft pick. In retrospect, did the Wolves need anything less than a tweener without great defending? Considering the (indefensible) move not to lock up Kevin Love for five years, the franchise ought to be in "win now" mode. Can we afford to wait the year or two for Derrick Williams to become the player we really need him to be? Will he ever reach that standard? I wouldn't put many bucks on those bets, but we'll see.

Favorite Move:

Creating a whole series of nicknames and puns for himself out of one ill-advised frustration tweet("has anyone else ever felt like a caged lion") is hard to beat. I hesitate to mention it, because the event sucked, but I thought his second dunk in the Contest was very nice - the 360 oop off the edge of the backboard.

Worst Move:

Branded the "Mud Run" in another Cynical Jason coinage, Derrick's atrocious approximation of the Euro Step lay-up was a sight to make a basketball purist's eyes bleed.

Strengths:

athleticism, size, potential, drawing fouls, dunking, triple threat first step, eye fakes, alley oop finishing.

Weaknesses:

speed, man defending, post play, handling, lay-ups, decisions, consistency, tweener, free throw shooting, long twos, settles for jumpers, flawed jumpshot mechanics.

Grade: D

Excusing factors aside, you hope your number two draft pick will at least be vaguely in the conversation for Rookie of the Year honors. He was barely on the NBA.com rookie ladder, and I didn't even consider him for my All-Rookie second team. That's below expectations. Badly below.

Next Year:

If I was advising Williams as his agent, I'd probably tell him to start sharpening his post skills and rebounding. For his long term career, he's more likely to be a PF. Hopefully his agent decides the Wolves are awesome and Williams gets into an intensive training regimen to improve his speed on the court with a view to him playing more minutes as a 3 with Love, Rubio and Pekovic. If he can somehow markedly improve his on ball perimeter defense that would be excellent, but I'm not holding my breath. Some remedial work on his jumpshot might be good - he has touch on the college three pointer but limited consistency at the extra NBA distance.

Theme Song:

A-wim-a-way-a-wim-a-way... I hate that song. I could annoy Stop-and-Pop by suggesting "Little Lion Man" by Mumford and Sons, but I won't.

Derrick-williams-dunk-vs-charlotte-2-16-12_medium

This was a nice dunk, wasn't it? Apropos of nothing, my Skyrim character is a dead ringer for Derrick.

Season Awards

Can't pass up the temptation to put in my two cents:

MVP: LeBron James

He's playing at an unbelievable - horrifying - level. Give Chris Bosh's salary to a few good role players and he'd have that dynasty he wanted. Which is pretty funny really. I have to admit something, though, which is that I love watching James play, damn it. Especially when he drives to the hoop from the three point line like a freight train. Runners Up: Kevin Durant (man, he is ****ing awesome), Kevin Love (you know it), Chris Paul (what a player he is - the definition of an NBA point guard), Tony Parker (individual stats not exceptional, but the Spurs are, and the reason for that is French and divorced Eva Longoria).

ROY: Kyrie Irving

He probably would (and should) have won even if Ricky had stayed healthy. He's a very nice player. Too shoot first for my taste, but he's top quality. Runners Up: Ricky Rubio, Kenneth Faried (he is the real deal. I think he could be an all-star one day), Markieff Morris (I'm a fan, and he really gave the Suns a chance at the post-season), Kawhi Leonard (very good defender, seized a starting spot on one of the league's best teams), Klay Thompson (he's come out of nowhere to turn out to be pretty damn solid), Isaiah Thomas (sharp looking PG). Lots of good-but-not-great rooks this year, looking back on it.

DPOY: Kevin Garnett

Defense in the NBA is rarely beautiful. It's all about hustle, desperation, effort. KG has refined his defense to such a pitch that watching it is a joy. He is pretty much defending two positions at once by running Brandon Bass on remote control. Runners Up: Andre Iguodala, Dwight Howard, Serge Ibaka, Tony Allen, Tyson Chandler.

6MOY: James Harden

All too easy. Harden would be a 42 minute starter on pretty much any other teams than the Thunder or the Heat. Maybe we can trade Wes for him. %%% Runners Up: there really aren't any... this is a one person award. Maybe Lou Williams?

MIP: Greg Monroe

Efficient, strong, skilled and well rounded, I'm a big admirer of where Monroe has taken his game this year. Runners Up: Wesley Johnson Ryan Anderson, Nikola Pekovic, James Harden, Ersan Ilyasova.

COY: Greg Popovich

He's done an exceptional job with the Spurs this season. Runners up: Tom Thibodeau (although I could win in the East with that team. But seriously, his ability to arrange a defensive scheme is almost wondrous. Kyle Korver is a stopper on that team, damn), Lionel Hollins, Vinny Del Negro, Doc Rivers.

EXOY: Who Gives A ****

I think Andrew Sharp of SBNation suggested David Stern (for the Clippers). That's funny, and true, so let's go with that. Nice call, Mr. Sharp. The actual winner should be Masai Ujiri who has assembled an excellent team down in Colorado, through a rebuilding post-Carmelo age that took roughly one-seventh of the time David Kahn has taken to produce nothing except a pissed off Kevin Love and borderline playoff aspirations.

All NBA 1st Team (I may have broken positional rules, but screw it, those are stupid)

Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Andrew Bynum

(If I had to follow the strict rules, stupid as they are, Love has to go to the second team behind KD, Parker goes to the first team. As I say, stupid. Besides, Durant is basically a seven foot Allen Iverson.)

All NBA 2nd Team

Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard

All NBA 3rd Team

Rajon Rondo, Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Pau Gasol, Tyson Chandler

All Rookie 1st Team

Kyrie Irving, Ricky Rubio, Kawhi Leonard, Kenneth Faried, Bismack Biyombo (no other centers -why not?)

All Rookie 2nd Team

Isaiah Thomas, Klay Thompson, Chandler Parsons, Markieff Morris, Tristan Thompson

Dunk Of The Year: Gerald Green

I thought it would be hard to top another pretty nasty BG throwdown but did you SEE Cupcake's unbelievable windmill alley oop finish? He was staring down into the rim and cranked the ball round from into front of his stomach before a perfect finish. Love it.

Alright, that's finally it. Thanks if you actually read all of it: for the TL;DRers basically everyone except Ricky, Love, Luke and Pek were at best mediocre and at worst useless and those guys were at least good and at best awesome. So, what did I get wrong? Anything stand out for anyone?

Don't forget to follow your Minnesota Lynx, and see you for next year's playoff run! Go Wolves!

-M

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